Eric Grundhauser, writing for New Atlas, says bio-cremation techniques make burning the dead look old-fashioned. So what’s stopping people from choosing it?
Flameless cremation produces no fumes or smoke, and requires much less energy, space (“Technically you could put one of these units on the tenth floor of an office building,” says McQueen), and maintenance than traditional flame cremation. So why hasn’t this cleaner, gentler, more efficient method caught on? Well, it’s complicated.
“The funeral industry is a very slow industry to change. It’s based in tradition,” says Ryan Cattoni of the bio-cremation firm AquaGreen Dispositions. Both Cattoni and McQueen say that the funeral industry, which is largely governed by the closely held death customs of the cultures in which they operate, is often resistant to new ways of doing things. It can be hard to convince people to try something else. “In all honesty there are a lot of funeral directors out there that don’t like the idea of the bio-cremation,” says McQueen. “There’s a lot of funeral directors out there that don’t actually think it should be called cremation.”
Another major obstacle facing the adoption of flameless cremation is that it isn’t technically legal in a lot of states. “Every state has cremation and funeral directing rules and regulations that classify methods of disposition,” says Cattoni. “Some states don’t have the wording in their regulations to allow it.” Cattoni himself had to lobby to change the laws in Illinois, where his company is based, just so they could operate. Even in Europe, where the process was originally developed, it is almost universally illegal. McQueen estimates there are about 15 states in the U.S. where flameless cremation is currently legal.